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The Rockhaq Community | July 22, 2017

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Album Review: Agnes Obel – Philharmonics

Joe Doyle

It’s been a while, Rockhaq! Feels good to be back and it feels even better to be back with the chance to review a beautiful classical folk album. Released in 2010, Philharmonics is a number one album from Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel. But enough of the album’s history. The opener, ‘falling, catching’ is a very serene piano piece, which instantly introduces the album’s classical theme. This leads on  to the most renowned track from the album, ‘Riverside’.

This folk inspired track is beautiful, spine tingling and overflows with beautiful harmonies, lyrics and piano work. Her use of chords gives it a dark beauty, making you wish you could understand her complex lyrics and mind. “I walk to the borders on my own, to fall in the water like a stone” expresses the solemnity but in no way depresses it. Immediately you can sense the talent this album beholds. Her next track, ‘Brother Sparrow’, starts quite abruptly, with a syncopated guitar blending with some nice piano work. Seemingly a much cheerier song than Riverside, about half way through it kicks in with some distant sounding drums, showing more of her impressive composition work with timing.

‘Just So’ is next on the bill. Definitely a much happier song than the previous few. The lyric “Today is going to be the day, you hear somebody say, we need to be wide awake” is almost ironic with the lullaby like melody. Obel’s calming voice has showed itself off on every track so far, but this adds a bit of cutesy trait to it. For the first time on the album you hear male backing vocals, adding to the romance. I just wish it was that little bit longer. ‘Beast’ also starts quite abruptly, with a nice broken chord adding a cheery feel to it. Her percussion and instrumentation is already very interesting and unique, which is a rare thing in this day and age. ‘Louretta’, the second instrumental number, starts off with the classic waltz timing, with eerie chord progressions and effects on the instruments, making this very different. You don’t know whether to smile, weep or fear the worst, but regardless it’s a fantastic composition!

Agnes must have decided to keep the eerie mood for ‘Avenue’. Although it’s more upbeat, the introduction has a pretty evil about it. Soon enough, it kicks into her classic lullaby hook. She’s definitely an imaginative one, Agnes. Back to the waltz, ‘Philharmonics’ kicks in, with the saddening lyric “Guess who died, last night, in grey stockings, it was no loss, the only God of mine”. This dark anthem still fits in perfectly with the rest of the album’s beauty and serene mood, as does ‘Close Watch’. ‘Wallflower’ introduces you to more of her talent, with pretty strange timing that seems so familiar, but is nothing like what you’ve already heard. Another instrumental composition, showing off more of her musical intelligence, like ‘Over the hill’, which isn’t instrumental, but a nice short number. ‘On powdered ground’ is beautiful and does her much justice, especially her vocals.

Overall, this album is brilliant. I wouldn’t say it’s the best to listen to when you’re getting ready to go out partying, but maybe for a long car drive, or a nice calming album to relax on a sunny park with. I’ll give it a respective 7 or 8 out of 10. It leaks with passion, love and talent, but it’s just not got the versatility you’d expect. Regardless, it’s definitely worth a listen!

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